Happy Festivus, all! While it’s an otherwise joyous time of the year, before we get in the NFL Week 16 Lines, we need to talk about the New England Las Vegas game on Sunday. Last week I had the Pats getting two as a Best Bet, saying, “Is there a universe where Bill Belichick loses to an inferior Josh McDaniels team? It staggers the mind to comprehend.” Indeed, it took a staggering confluence of events for this bet not to hit.
First, Las Vegas scored the tying touchdown on a play that, in real-time, looked like the receiver was out of bounds and, on replay, appeared to be out of bounds. But, it just so happened that the NFL, a multi-billion dollar enterprise, apparently couldn’t afford to have a camera in the correct position to unquestionably ascertain that Keelan Cole’s toes were, in fact, out of bounds. Clear and obvious? To everyone else, yes. To those making the decision, apparently not.
Then, things got really wacky. With time for one play and not in a position to attempt a long field goal or Hail Mary throw, the New England coaching staff decided not to do the obvious and take a knee and go to overtime but to run a draw play. Risky and unnecessary? Sure, but… no, there’s no but, this was just dumb. It gave Rhamondre Stevenson a few extra fantasy points but allowed him to do something silly and lateral the ball to Jakobi Meyers at the end of the run. That led to the unthinkable. Meyers desperately heaved the ball backward and into the middle of the field where Chandler Jones could “intercept” the pitch, truck over a hapless Mac Jones, and take the ball into the end zone for the winning score. Unthinkable on every conceivable level.
There were certainly reasons to fade the Pats in this spot. Back-to-back west coast trips. Sunday road game following a Monday Night road game. But, in the end, getting points against an inferior team and Belichick coaching against a former disciple seemed like an obvious lean. And it still took a sequence of nigh unimaginable events to not cash. And therein lies our lessons.
First, obviously, no matter how sure a bet may seem, there are no locks. Wager responsibly. Second, process, process, process. Sportsbooks are good at what they do. They make spread bets into coin flips. You’re going to have rough stretches (see my record picking games this season). If your process is sound, stick with it; if you’re losing consistently, by all means, tweak it, but don’t let the result of one game, especially one bizarre game, move you off what works.
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The Pats certainly weren’t the only thing I missed on last week. But, all in all, I got two correct, while the ELO really struggled at 1-5-1.
Last week: My picks, 2 – 4 – 1; Analytics, 1 – 5 – 1; Best Bets, 1 – 2
San Francisco at Seattle – “The last time the 49ers swept them was 2011. Since then, they’re 17-5 against them and 10-1 at home (including playoffs).”
Bet streaks until they end. The time appears to have come for Seattle’s ownership of San Fran.
Indianapolis at Minnesota – “Wait, does Jeff Saturday coaching on a Saturday help?”
Clearly not. But seriously, the Vikings pull off the biggest comeback in NFL history but can’t score a touchdown in OT to get the cover? That’s some weak sauce.
Baltimore at Cleveland – “Never pass up an opportunity to bet against the Ravens with “not-Lamar” at quarterback.”
See, process. Stick with what works.
Miami at Buffalo – “Third straight road game, short week, warm weather team in bad weather. There’s no way you can take the Dolphins.”
And yet, they covered. The process giveth, and the process taketh away.
Atlanta at New Orleans – “And now they’re giving Desmond Ridder his first career start in a tough environment against a still solid defense.”
That part was right. This would have been a prime tease spot to get the number under 3. Best Bet Under was spot on.
Dallas at Jacksonville – “Was Dallas looking two weeks ahead to next week’s game with Philly on Sunday when they almost lost to Houston?”
If they were, they didn’t avert their gaze past the Jags.
Tennessee at Los Angeles Chargers – “In a strength-on-weakness (Tennessee running game vs. LA run defense) against strength-on-weakness (LA passing game against Tennessee pass defense) game, I’ll take the points and the Over.”
Taking the points was fine as this game pushed. However, the Over was clearly not.
Season: My picks, 33 – 52 – 4; Analytics, 40 – 45 – 3; Best Bets, 15 – 22 – 1
NFL Week 16 Lines
(Standard disclaimer – All opinions are my own and may or may not reflect those of this website. “Analytic Lines” are ELO point spreads from fivethirtyeight.com, and “Vegas Lines” are courtesy of thelines.com, current as of the writing of this article. Predicted Line (“PL”) is my early week estimate of where the Vegas line would be set. Chosen games are those with a multiple-point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines.)
Seven games with multiple-point variances this Christmas weekend. Let’s go!
Game of the Week
Houston at Tennessee – Analytic Line: TEN (-7.5), Vegas Line: TEN (-3), PL: TEN (-6.5)
My predicted line was before Ryan Tannehill was ruled out. Unfortunately, it feels like Vegas may have over-corrected on this line. Malik Willis isn’t ready to be a full-time starter in the NFL, but he’s fully capable of turning around and handing off to Derrick Henry.
Pick: Tennessee (-3)
Make It A Parlay
Buffalo at Chicago – Analytic Line: CHI (+10.5), Vegas Line: CHI (+8), PL: CHI (+7.5)
The weather across the country is going to be a significant factor this week. Chicago will likely be as bad as anywhere. These games will likely be low scoring, and I’m not comfortable laying more than a touchdown in that environment.
Pick: Chicago (+8)
New Orleans at Cleveland – Analytic Line: CLE (-5.5), Vegas Line: CLE (-3), PL: CLE (-4.5)
Here’s a spot where I want to play the weather, as a southern dome team playing in the cold and wind isn’t something I’m interested in backing.
Pick: Cleveland (-3)
Seattle at Kansas City – Analytic Line: KC (-12), Vegas Line: KC (-10), PL: KC (-10.5)
Two things here: Not laying a TD-plus in the weather, and KC doesn’t cover at home.
Pick: Seattle (+10)
New York Giants at Minnesota – Analytic Line: MIN (-6), Vegas Line: MIN (-4), PL: MIN (-4.5)
How do the Vikings bounce back after last week’s… I’m not sure what you call something unprecedented. The thought here is the emotional toll carries over, and the Giants do enough to cover. It’s not like the Vikings have been a paragon of consistency this year.
Pick: New York Giants (+4)
Detroit at Carolina – Analytic Line: CAR (Pick ‘Em), Vegas Line: CAR (+2.5), PL: CAR (+2.5)
Pick: Carolina (+2.5); Best Bet: Carolina Money Line (+125)
Los Angeles Chargers at Indianapolis – Analytic Line: IND (+1.5), Vegas Line: IND (+4), PL: IND (+6.5)
Nothing says throwing in the towel like starting Nick Foles at QB, even if he is the objectively better option. The Colts are done, and this isn’t enough points to get me to take them.
Pick: Los Angeles Chargers (-4)
Additional Best Bets: Pittsburgh (-1.5) vs. Las Vegas; Atlanta at Baltimore Under 35; Philadelphia Money Line (+170)